24110 >> Draves: Good afternoon. My name is Amy Draves, and I'm here to introduce Howard Rheingold, who is joining us as part of the Microsoft Research Visiting Speakers Series. Howard is here today to discuss his book "Net Smart How to Thrive Online." Like it or not knowing, how to make use of online tools without being overloaded with too much information is an essential ingredient to personal success in the 21st century. The key to discover the way to use social media intelligently, humanely and above all, mindfully, is critical. Howard Rheingold is an influential writer and visiting lecturer at Stanford and U.C. Berkeley. He's authored several books including "Tools for Thought: The Virtual Community" and "Smart Moms." Please join me in welcoming him back to Microsoft. [applause] >> Howard Rheingold: Hello. Thank you. I'm familiar with Microsoft Research, so one of the great advantages of talking to really smart people is that I can cover a lot more material real quickly. Essentially I'll do an hour-long presentation. I'm going to leave out the beginners' explanation and I'm going to do it in a half an hour. But I've also added some material particularly for you as tool-makers. So if you are concerned that our use of digital media are making us as individuals and our society shallow, then why not teach more people how to swim and we can all explore the deep end of the pool. The way you use a search engine or stream video from your phone or update your Facebook status matters to you and to me and to everyone, because the way we use these media now are going to influence the way they are used and misused for decades to come. Very recently, a number of strong critiques of the pitfalls and the hidden costs of our use of digital media have emerged. A few of these critiques actually based on some empirical evidence. And I take technology criticism seriously. And I think you probably will agree with me that we should all look critically at our own media practices and what they may be costing us. And while technology criticism is necessary, it is not sufficient. Knowing that something is broken or that it may cost more than you thought it did is not the same as telling you how to fix it. So instead of asking questions like is Google making us stupid, or is Facebook commoditizing our privacy or is Twitter chopping our attention into micro slices, all good questions. I have been asking more broadly: How do you use social media intelligently, humanely and, above all, mindfully? I've drawn on my own experience of nearly 30 years online. I've looked at the research literature. There's 500 footnotes in the book if you want to check out any of my claims. There should be links for you to go to the source material on that. And I've talked to a lot of the social media leaders, people whose names you know, Linda Stone, foremost among them. Jimmy Wales, Dana Boyd. Barry Wellman and Net Smart is about what I've learned. Before I get into the actual literacies, I want to speak specifically to issues that concern you as toolmakers here. This is not the first time that new media transformed the way we think, learn and communicate. A woman by the name of Denise [inaudible] actually discovered the origins of writing. It started out as accounting. It started out as a business practice, and it was [inaudible] to communicate things other than business transactions. And the fears of information overload are not new. They go at least as far back as Ecclesiastes, the same kinds of things have been said whenever a new communication medium makes a lot of new information available. And there always seems to be a panic about information overload. And in the past every time this has happened, innovators have reacted by creating new ways of organizing information. Too much handwritten text in the age of the alphabet led to schools, libraries and scholars. And too much printed information led to alphatization indexes, subject headings, taxonomies, reference books, Encyclopedias, authors, critics, editors, so much we take for granted as part of the community of literacy was invented in fact to deal with the information overload that the print revolution enabled. I go back to Doug Englebart, and I noticed in the hallway references to Butler Lampson, a lot of people who were involved in creating personal computers and digital networks, go back to Doug Englebart's original 1962 paper. I'm sure some of you have read it. If you have not read it and you work at Microsoft Research you should go read it. It's called augmenting human intellect. Wrote it in 1962. And one of the things he wrote in that paper was about humans using language, artifacts, methodology and training. And, of course, we've seen the artifacts evolve billions of fold. He made this famous 1968 mother of all demos on a computer that probably had about 8 K of RAM. So today tools, literacies, and networks are uber [inaudible] starting with Moore's law, the capacity to amplify technically has led to the ability, of course, to amplify our intellect and the interconnection of our personal mind amplifiers into networks have led to where we are today. And that evolution certainly has not stopped. Today's toolmakers would do well to look at emerging literacies. So that's what I want to talk about. Five literacies in particular, starting with attention. Okay. I'm not playing this so I'm going to go on. Attention, participation, collaboration, crap detection, and network awareness. So attention, of course, is the foundation of thinking and communicating. And I got interested in this in particular when I was in a classroom and noticing that many of the students were looking at their computers instead of me. Some of them were checking things out to make sure I knew what I was talking about. Some of them were asking each other questions. Some of them were undoubtedly Facebooking or on World of War Craft. I realized they didn't know what it looked like from where I stood. So with their permission I took a little video of them from the front of the classroom. And at the back of the classroom I had another camera. And look at the student's screen here. Even though I took this video of them, I put it on YouTube, I projected it on the screen in front of the classroom, he decided he wanted to watch it on his computer while I was projecting it. I have no idea why. Then he took a look at my personal website, and then this all happened within not too many seconds, he went back to his e-mail. So the interesting thing about this student is that he was a very rare A plus student. Years go by without an A plus. I'm sure if I had stopped him and said: What am I talking about? He would have been able to tell me. So research on multi-tasking, Cliff Ness's work at Stanford is often cited, has indicated pretty strongly that for 95 percent of people who think they are getting things done more effectively while they are multi-tasking, they are actually degrading their performance on the individual tasks. I think this guy must be one of those four or 5 percent who are able to do it. And the question is was he just born this way, the way some people can run faster or jump higher, or did he learn something? And if so, what did he learn and can others learn it as well? So when working with my students, thinking about this myself, talking to people like Linda Stone and Cliff Nass, I came to the conclusion that the most important lesson is mindfulness. If that sounds a little too spiritual for you, metacognition is another word for it. And Wikipedia has really good entry on metacognition. It simply means being aware of how you are deploying your attention. And the meditation practices that go back thousands of years are really based on, start with simply becoming aware of what's going through your mind. So with my students, do a number of attention probes in the classroom. For example, ringing a chime at random intervals, and then people will write on a yellow sticky what they're thinking, if it's related to what we're talking about. On an orange sticky they'll write what they're thinking about. If it's tangentially related, and on a red sticky if it has nothing to do with the discussion at the moment all anonymously and we all put them up on the whiteboard and we get a sense of what's happening. We do a number of these attention probes every time we meet. And the objective here is to begin to develop an awareness of where our attention is. Not only when we're online but when we're walking down the street. I'm sure many of you saw the video from the security camera in the mall of the young woman who walked into the fountain while texting. The Pugh Internet Survey claims that through scientific survey one in six Americans have bumped into something while looking at their phone, while texting. When that mindfulness is directed towards the information that we are bringing in through digital media, I call it info tension. And when I talk about training info tension, part of it is on the cognitive side and part of it is on the tools side. So we all have to make very rapid decisions about what we're going to pay attention to online. Am I going to pay attention to that little badge that says I've got new e-mail, or am I going to wait until later? Am I going to click on that link in a tweet. Am I going to go look at the latest viral video, or am I going to be doing something else? The objective of training this is to begin making these decisions more consciously. And after becoming more deliberate about it, becoming more deliberate and faster, sometimes you want to pay attention to something. Sometimes you want to open a tab and pay attention to it later. Sometimes you just want to tag it and bookmark it because it's something that interests you and you don't know whether you're even going to look at it this week. So part of the training has to do with matching your attention to your tool set. Matching your attentional strategy to your tool set. I'll show you a screen of that in a minute. The spatial arrangement of information online and the way we organize our priorities can be synced, and of course priorities are up to you. Nobody else really can tell you what your priority is for today. You know what you need to get accomplished. So at the beginning of the day I instruct people, and I myself write down two or three goals for the day. I use the old right brain pen and paper and I put it on the corner of my desk so that every once in a while accidentally it will come to my attention. And when it is, I simply ask myself: Where is my attention right now? And do I need to bring it back to the task. Very similar to meditation on the breath, where you simply observe your breath and when your mind wanders, you just go back to observing your breath. I took a leaf from professor BJ Fog at Stanford who has been studying how to cultivate habits. And he has a simple three-part plan which is start small, only talks about 20 seconds to write down a couple of goals. Find a place for it. I do it at the beginning of the day. I put it on my desktop. And repeat. And you've got a habit. So I've used all of the RSS readers, and I've settled on Net Vibes because it gives me three levels of abstraction. I can have different dashboards for entirely different subjects. And on the dashboard it's got a second level of abstraction, which are the tabs, which are dragable and dropable, and then it's got the feeds which are also dragable and dropable. So I can put the highest priority for today, according to what my priorities are, on the left, because we're accustomed to reading from left to right and top to bottom, and I can put the feeds that are updated the most often at the top. So there are days when I may just look at what's under the left-most tab and the days when I may look at all of them. Of course, the advantage of RSS readers is you can very quickly scan the headlines and decide whether you want to pay more attention to it later. This is what I mean by making my goals visible daily. So that's six words. Three goals. Probably took me ten seconds to write. So in the book I get into a lot of detail, and I scaffold it with a lot of empirical research that I found. So today I just want to touch upon some of the highlights of attention. Attention can be trained. There's a lot of good neuroscience about this. Although, of course, that's what meditative disciplines have claimed for centuries. Breathe. So I learned this from Linda Stone. I assume you all know who I'm talking about when I say Linda Stone, do you not? Go look her up. She was associated with Microsoft Research when it was founded. She's a retired emeritus employee. And she's responsible for me being here today. And she's got an interesting blog on Huffington Post, she gets into these issues. But she noticed she was holding her breath while doing her e-mail. She started asking her friends. And it turns out if you notice, you look for it you will notice that there are times when you hold your breath while you're doing your e-mail. And this is connected to the fight or flight response, which was very useful to our ancestors. You're walking through the Savannah. All kinds of predators around and you hear a noise. It's probably a good idea for you to stop and hold your breath, and at the same time your adrenalin starts pumping. Your endocrine system starts to get ready for fight or flight. This is very good if you want to survive in a crisis situation. It is have erosive effects on your health if you do it often. And of course when you're sitting at your desk and you're looking at your screen, you're not being pursued by a saber tooth anything 500 times a day. So every once in a while, just stop and take a breath. Attention to intention is how the mind changes the brain. Although this sounds a little woowoo it really is how the neuroscience works. So Donald Hebbs, principal that nerves, neurons that fire together, wire together, it's a generalization. And when you're having a particular thought or holding a particular image, there are particular neural networks that fire at that time. And the more you do that, the more you strengthen the connections between those neurons, the more you strengthen that network by holding the intention of noticing where your attention is. You are changing your brain. That is really the principle behind how meditation works and it's been verified. There's a lot of great recent books on the neural science of this. So let's talk about critical consumption. I use a less polite term that I got from Hemmingway who said that every good journalist needs to have a good internal crap detector. And I started on this when my daughter, who is now grown, was in middle school. This was back when search engines had names like Alta Vista and Info Seek, and I told her when she started using them for her papers that you can go to the library and get a book out and you can disagree with the book and the book's opinions might be wrong, but you can be pretty sure that there was an author, an editor and a publisher who checked factual claims in that. If you go online and you put aquarian, you can get the answer to any question within a couple of seconds. It's up to you to determine whether that's good information, bad information, disinformation or misinformation. So I sat her down and I asked her to do a search on Martin Luther King, Jr. is anybody know about this site? Martin Luther King, A True Historical Examination. It's martinlutherking.org. So you click on that and it looks like it's a website about the civil rights leader. If you look a little more closely at the articles, it has actually a pretty dim view of Reverend King. So there is an author to this. My daughter said how can I tell whether this is for real. I said search on that author. Searching on that author was quite revealing. And she said who is the author of the website. We couldn't find that. So I told her to take a look at WHOIS, simple utility that enables anybody to put in a URL and find out who is the legally responsible for that website. You put in martinlutherking.org, and it turns out that the person responsible for it is Don Black at stormfront.org. So you do a search on stormfront.org, and it turns out that it's a white nationalist and supremist neo-Nazi Internet forum. It was what was known as a cloaked website. This has been used as an example so many times recently they have actually come out of the closet about it and they put Storm Front on the front page of it. But when I first showed it to my daughter, it was cloaked. This bun was very scary the first time I found it because it did not offer the clues that it now offers that it is a hoax. And considering that there are people who get pregnant because they aren't entirely clear on where babies come from, I think it's kind of scary, although it's funny. It asks you to fill in your name and press the start test button. So I put in the name Joe. I started the pregnancy test, and a flash animation came up that said sit still while we scan you. And then pregnancy detected. Congratulations, Joe, you're with child. So I noticed that they've got real ads over on this side. So I think most people can tell that it's a joke. But maybe not. I couldn't help clicking on the next one. View My Baby. It's a girl. Okay. One more click. Who's the daddy. Turns out to be Fabio. You can actually pick another daddy. By this time I think most people will know that this is not for real. I have actually a collection of these sites. Here's one that looks legit. Looks like a pretty good design. This is a primate, a mandrel, who has been taught to understand English, can communicate with you through a keyboard. Totally bogus. The Pacific northwest tree octopus, an endangered nonexistent species. It's kind of funny. If you're a sixth grader, who knows. So here I've got a collection of these under crap detection. So, again, I get into a lot of detail about this, because I think it's all important. We can't and shouldn't police what people put online. If that was possible, we wouldn't have the Web that we have today. What we can do is enable people to think a little bit more effectively about the information that they find. And when you're talking about medical information, who has not Googled their symptoms or their disease when they have a diagnosis could be fatal. When you're talking about the political sphere, there's a lot of bad information out there of various kinds. As I told my daughter, I urge my readers to think like a detective and try to put clues together. Don't accept -- detective doesn't accept anything at the beginning. And then additively begins accepting things. Search to learn. Sometimes you just want to find out where the nearest pizza place is. But if you're a student and you're using search to learn about a subject, you shouldn't stop with the first page of results. You shouldn't use one search engine and you shouldn't stop with the first search. You should look at the snippets that you get to refine your search. Look for authors. If you can find them. If you don't, I would turn the credibility meter down. And search on their names. And triangulate what journalists do is to try to find three sources. So when I saw a rumor on Twitter that Egypt had shut down its Internet that came under the category of interesting, if true. But I wasn't going to pass that rumor along until I found three sources. I put out a query for information. Someone told me that another person that I know to be legitimately in touch with activists in the Middle East was talking to someone in Egypt on the telephone and said that it was true. So that was a point there. I took the original rumor as one point. I still needed another one, and someone reminded me that I could use ping to find out if sites in Egypt were up. And it turned out that all the ones I tried were down. So I passed that rumor along. Turned out to be true. However, in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, there was a rumor on Twitter, that if you texted a certain number, it would contribute money to sending medical personnel to Haiti. Turned out to be a cruel hoax and the people who passed that rumor along were sorry that they did. They're sorry that they didn't triangulate it later. And recently Eli Pariser has written the Internet bubble about how search engines personalize. And a few years ago Cass Sunstein now at the White House wrote about the daily we, about the fear that now that people can bundle their own newspapers, they can get their own sources online, people are paying more and more attention to information that they agree with. So my solution to this is to find people whose intellect and honesty I respect but whose opinions I disagree with and pay attention to them. If nobody in your network annoys you, you are in an echo chamber. So participation. This is a Texas audience here. This is the Hook 'Em Horns sign. We wouldn't be talking about digital media or digital networks without participation. I just want to point out just a few examples. A few years ago Warner Brothers attorneys tried to shut down a Harry Potter fan site. And Heather Lauver organized a worldwide boycott that backed those attorneys off within a couple of days fast enough that they had not learned that she was 16 years old. Bev Harris, a previously obscure blogger who was obsessed with Diebold's voting machines. Diebold makes the voting machines that are used in a lot of elections, and their source code they have kept secret. And she found it online in an unprotected site. So she spread it around. And although she was an obscure blogger, it went up the food chain and a lot of people knew about it. Swarthmore students put it on a server at Swarthmore. Diebold sued them, and the federal court found for the students in that case. Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who was one of the many young activists who used Facebook in the Arab Spring, and of course Mark Zuckerberg and the Google twins, these people were all in their teens or early 20s. I emphasize their youth to simply emphasize the power of knowing how to participate online. The power of knowing how to create a website to blog, to advocate, use a wiki to organize. So I like this power law of participation that Ross Mayfield used to plot the low threshold with the tool against high threshold and low engagement with high engagement. People can start very low on the threshold of the tool or the engagement. They can read. They can favorite it. They can tag, like or comment or move all the way up to creating collaborative intelligence of quite sophisticated types that I'll talk about. So there's a lot of different kinds of curation tools, and curation is one of the forms of participation that's the easiest for people to create a collective intelligence by filtering the best stuff for each other. It's one thing to detect crap but it's another issue to find the best stuff. If you're an expert on a particular topic, you're going to have to look through your information overload and reduce that to useful knowledge. In open source world they call it scratching an itch. If a new printer comes out on the market and there's not a driver for it, then if you like the driver for that, it pays for you to put that in the public code base. Not only are you signalling you're someone who is cooperative, who deserves to be cooperated with later, but you're also enlisting a team of others to help you when they change that printer and you need to change the driver. We all have to tag and bookmark those things that we can't easily search for anyway. And the real genius of social bookmarking is that there's no additional cost, either financial or in terms of your effort, to make your choices public. And in the aggregate, those choices become a valuable public resource. You want to gain a reputation as an expert on a topic. Well, people who are interested in that topic will know very quickly if you know what you're talking about. And if you do, they're going to start paying regular attention to you and they're going to spread the word. In fact, curation is kind of a personal SEO in the sense that you are sending out signals whether you're interested in a particular breed of cat or a particular kind of programming language. People who are looking for that are going to find you. And if they find you and you know what you're talking about they may collaborate with you, they may give you information that could be useful to you. So now we're seeing a lot of different platforms like colorrah and stack overflow that enable people to share knowledge to ask questions to give answers as a form of participation. And again individual acts of self-interest adding up to important public good. In the aggregate, Henry Jenkins believes that participation by more people online leads to a participatory culture. A person who thinks of herself as the passive consumer of culture created by others has a different sense of agency, a different sense of herself as a citizen from one who considers herself, whatever small way, to be a contributor to digital culture. There are a Jillion ways to participate online and new ones emerging every day. So, again, just the highlights here. Don't just consume. Create. Architecture of participation was a term that Tim O'Riley came up with to show the architecture of a lot of online media enables people to make self-interested acts that add up to public goods. One of the most clever architectures of participation was Napster. When people were downloading music from other users, by default the folder on their desktop where they downloaded music to was open to other Napster users to download music from. So in that sense this was a sense in which people provision the resource that they consume while they're consuming it. Cory Doctorow called this cheap who shit grass, and I think architectures of participation are something that could be of value to you as tool makers. Curation is a lightweight form of collective intelligence. And if you're going to participate, take a few minutes to figure out what the local customs are, what are the norms and boundaries of the local culture and crap detect thy self before broadcasting questionable information. Curation is not just a matter of making choices it's also a matter of maintaining your reputation for making excellent choices. So collaboration, ultimately the most powerful thing that digital media and networks provide. It's not just individual empowerment amplification of your ability to think and communicate, it's the enabling of people to do things together in ways that they have not been able to do things before. So Smart Moms ten years ago when I spoke in this room, I talked about the combination of the mobile phone, personal computer and the Internet, lowering the threshold for collective action. Of course, we're seeing that everywhere from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street. When I spoke in Chilé they said the Penguin Revolution. So public school students in Chilé wear uniforms that are black and gray so they call themselves penguins. The education is not funded very well in Chilé, so they decided not only were they going to walk out of their classes, they chained the schools shut, and induced 700,000 Chilean citizens to join them in the streets. There's a dialogue about education in that country that continues to this day. And the Minister of Education resigned that night. Virtual communities, I first wrote about this in 1987 in my book the same name was 1992. Whether you are playing casual games or you are a cancer patient, you are probably connected to other people in other parts of the world who provide you with information and support on a daily basis. Don't tell me that a virtual community is not a real community, if you haven't been in one of those situations. Everybody here know about Seti At Home? Couple of people. So Seti searched for extraterrestrial intelligence. They sent down signals from outerspace. They looked for patterns in them. American taxpayers don't want to pay for the intense computation involved. So they created a screen saver which they distributed. When your laptop, desktop computer, goes to sleep the screen saver wakes up, downloads some of this data, runs a pattern recognition algorithm on it, sends the result back to headquarters. What's interesting about this is not messages from little purple people. So far they haven't said they found any. It was that they amassed 20 teraflops of I don't have to explain that to you. 20 teraflops of computing power from a couple of million volunteers. And this was years ago. Now we've got folding at home. If you go to folding.stanford.edu, you can help biochemists understand how protein molecules fold. There's a game to do it called Fold It. If you understand how a protein molecule folds, you can understand more about the immune system and more about creating new medicines, modeling weather. In just a few years we're going to have billions of people walking around with super computers in their pockets, linked at greater than what we consider to be broadband speeds. What kinds of computation and computational tasks will people be able to tackle then together that they can't tackle today? Jim Gray -does anybody here know of Jim Gray? So I will just quickly repeat this story. Jim Gray was computer scientist for Microsoft Research, was he not? And he took his boat out in San Francisco Bay one day. Did not come back that night. So his friends in Google and NASA got pictures, his friends, of that area, 3500 square miles. Friends at Microsoft and Amazon cut those into half a million images and made them available on Mechanical Turk and thousands of volunteers searched through these images. They did not find Jim Gray but they put this ad hoc system together, literally within hours of him not coming back. So crowd sourcing we usually think of something that businesses do, and we're going to see more and more businesses do it. But it's not the only application of crowd sourcing now we're seeing crowd funding the U.S. Congress has now made crowd funding of start-ups SEC-compliant up to $2 million. Collaborative consumption. We're seeing everything from people finding a place to stay with air B and B to Zip Car, all kinds of ways that people are able to share resources that previously were not shareable because of the technology. And collective intelligence, who would have believed the last time I was here that we would see millions of articles in something like 200 languages created strictly by volunteers by this point. And more and more this is something that I'm very excited about. It's cooperative learning. Nowadays if you want to learn something, you can probably go to YouTube. Everything from configuring a new computer installation to how do you fly fish. Somebody has made a YouTube about it. More and more people are using the resources available online not just the sources of information, but the communication platforms to learn things together. You no longer have to go to a school. There are all kinds of platforms that have emerged for people to teach and learn from each other and with each other. So we have been told a story at least since Darwin's time that competition is the overwhelming aspect of everything from biology to business. But recent discoveries in a dozen different fields indicate that we have to shrink that picture of competition as being all powerful to make room for what we now understand about cooperative arrangements and complex independencies. I've got a Ted Talk on that if you want to hear more about that. Actions climb the curve of engagement with collaboration, just as it is with participation. You can start out small and you can end up big. There are a wide variety of ways to collaborate. Ways to participate. Enable self-election. So the great power of Wikipedia is there's no central authority, assigning someone to write on a local school district or certain species of ant. The person who considers themselves knowledgeable about that topic self-elects to do that. And you eliminate the cost of management. Not everything can be done by self-election. But certainly you know that open source software is done largely by self-election. We don't really know the limits of social production. Not everything can be produced that way. But we don't know what else might be. So survey on why people contribute to open source code has revealed that sticking to Microsoft is only about the fifth priority. The first priority is learning how to code. The second priority is enhancing reputation. But also meeting others and adding to a public good. And some research seems to indicate that having a homogenous community of people who are motivated either by altruism or by financial incentives is not as powerful as having a mixture of motives in that community. And this is a light motif diversity that I'll come back to. Casual conversation builds trust. Social capital, the ability for groups of people to do things together outside of formal structures like laws and contracts comes from networks of trust and norms of reciprocity. It's why when you meet someone you don't know, you talk about sports or the weather, until you can get to trust them a little bit to disclose more. If you've got an online forum and people are supposed to be exchanging engineering information and instead they're talking about brewing beer or their sports team, don't shut that down. So the fifth literacy that I write about in the book is network awareness or network know how. This consists of a lot of little pieces of knowledge. It's not really rocket science. It's not even learning the multiplication tables. But it comes from different fields that have somewhat obscured these as part of their disciplinary jargon. So network science has emerged recently. Probably many of you are aware of the research that has been done on small worlds, the power law, the long tail, the structure of networks can influence the behavior of individuals in those networks. Knowing something about that can enable individuals who are not scientists to function more effectively. Sociologists have talked about preservation of self, what I know about me and what you have figured about me whether I want you to know that or not, identity. Something now called networked individualism, instead of the online community being the center that connects people with shared interests, we're all the center of our own social networks. We all carry them in our pockets and we summon them when we need them. Reputation, all of these old ideas take on new meanings online. And the person who understands what only social scientists did about social capital, the importance of bridging capital, bonding capital and reciprocity, will be a more effective person. I'm trying to enable individuals to gain more power, more strategic advantage for themselves but also to enable them by their actions to improve the quality of the comments for all of us. Now social networks certainly preceded the online world. In fact, arguably we are humans because of our capacity to socialize. They take on an entirely new meaning online. And old ideas like strong ties and weak ties take on a very different meaning now that technology enables us to maintain relationships that we wouldn't have been able to maintain before. And now in the age of social media and viral media we're beginning to see some overarching ideas such as Manuel Castelle's claim we're not really in an information society. We are in a network society. And networks are the structure of power in the world today. And the power of networked publics that we are seeing the American political system change in unpredictable ways because of the way people are taking advantage of network publics. And of course it's the connection between all of these. Seeing how they are connected to each other that is really the most empowering knowledge. So network smarts. Networks have structures that influence the way individuals and groups behave. A portfolio of both strong and weak ties is useful, both to individuals and the networked society. If your house burns down, you're probably going to stay with somebody with whom you have a strong tie. If you're going to find a mate or a job, it's probably going to come through your network of weak ties. Position in social networks matter. For example, centrality, I learned that from Mark Smith previously of Microsoft Research. You do a social network analysis of an individual, it turns out that the number of people and networks who have to go through that person to get to each other can be more important to that person than the number of contacts, number of nodes in their network. Diverse networks are collectively smarter. Tom Sloan at the Sloan School at MIT has started the Center for Collective Intelligence to do empirical research on collective intelligence. So collective intelligence you can take a group of people and you can measure the accuracy of their decisions in a way that gives you something that's the equivalent of an individual IQ for that group. And you can measure them in a number of different situations. He's found that if you take a network of experts about a topic and a network that includes people who have no knowledge or little knowledge of that topic, they will come up collectively with better decisions than a group that is only experts. And also interestingly, one of their findings which has been replicated but not explained is that including women in networks, raises their collective IQ. People who can bridge networks build what sociologist Ronald Bert called structural holds stand to benefit. In fact, he wrote a really interesting paper on where do good ideas come from. In which he studied the Ratheon Company and looked at where innovation came from and it came from the people who connected networks. Pay It Forward, Barry Wellman's research at the University of Toronto, has indicated pretty strongly that doing favors for others online is the strongest predictor of whether you will receive favors from others. So how can Microsoft help us grow smarter and more mindful of how we use attention, info tension, crap detection, collaboration and network awareness. That's what I'd like to leave you with today. The people here in this room, the people who are watching through video, can help tools, skills and brains work together mindfully. The technologies and the media have not stopped multiplying. They've gone into hyperdrive. If you want to understand where we're going, I urge you to not just keep up with the technologies, but keep up with the literacies. So thank you for significant portion of your attention. This is the fewest number of laptops I've seen open in a room in a while. And we have some time for questions. >>: The online audience. You touched on it a little bit. So he says we know that participation leads to more knowledge, how can we get beginners people who don't have the skill set to participate because they might be intimidated to add something [inaudible] they don't have as much. >> Howard Rheingold: Well, I think part of that is in the tool and part of that is social. So any online community that wants to grow and diversify needs to be welcoming to newcomers. So I think that's a social norm that needs to be spread. But also I think tools with very low thresholds. So I hope someone here is working on curation tools. There's another curation tool start-up every day. I don't think we have plumbed the depths of how to enable people to use, to harvest what they're doing anyway in a way that is useful to others. How can we make that really, really simple? So Pinterest what people are talking a lot about these days. That's simple. You see something you like and you pin it. As I noted, starting with something simple leads to more complex collaboration. So I'd say the next design principle is if you can start simple, how can you lead somebody to the next step? I know that's something that Microsoft has thought about for years, sometimes successfully, sometimes not so successfully. There was the famous paperclip that didn't work. But it was an effort to do that. It's not easy when you're dealing with people's attention. But I think that that's a question that has not been adequately answered and still needs to be addressed. >>: Very small thing, but did I understand you to say that you spoke in this room about ten years ago? >> Howard Rheingold: I don't know whether it was in this room but it was at Microsoft Research. In fact, it wasn't in this room it seemed like it had a desk in the center. >>: That was my question because it didn't exist ten years ago. >> Howard Rheingold: But I think it was this building. Was it this building? >>: Across the street. >> Howard Rheingold: I remember I had lunch there and visited with some people and then we spoke in a room in which there was a small number of people and I was told that there were a larger number of people watching it on the desktops. Thank you. Excellent crap detection. [laughter]. >>: Another online question is: How could productivity tools emerge in years to come. >> Howard Rheingold: How will what? >>: Productivity tools. >> Howard Rheingold: Productivity tools. Boy, the question there is how do you deal with the already saturated. So I live in fear of upgrading anything, because I'm going to have to learn the new way to do it. And, you know, my friend Ming Lee, who works in the Lync group here forced me to upgrade my office. And the new PowerPoint -- I love the new PowerPoint. It really makes it easy to do things that used to be difficult to do. And somebody must have sat with a user who said how do I size an image? Can't I just drag an image on to the desktop? So I think we are all, even the people who are enthusiastic, we are overwhelmed with the tools that we have. And you have great tools. I use your tools. I live in fear of learning the next level of complexity. So I think how do you reduce that level of fear I think is really important, because once you get -- and also obviously paying attention to what is confusing to users or what would be more effective for users. I'm not telling you anything that you don't already know in that regard. But I'm telling you as an enthusiastic user of your products that, A, I'm scared of them becoming more complex. And, B, I've been reassured using the latest rev that it's easy to learn a new way to do things. Learning a new way to do things is hard when you're doing half a dozen. So making presentations. You're writing documents. It's doing calculations. You've got ways to do it. Why bother changing it? So your value proposition has to be the time you save by learning this new thing is going to be immediately more valuable than the time you take to learn a new way of doing it. Yes? >>: Just about digital literacy in general. I mean, there's some interesting projects around the Seattle area. We're getting this into the schools. But I'm wondering what experience you have, at what age people -- seems like it's a skill that kids should get at an early age. I have kids. I know they do a lot of the research online now. They don't just -- it's not natural or intuitive necessarily how to detect when something's reliable or not. >> Howard Rheingold: Well, I'll say that we have an institution in our society that is somewhat endangered that ought to be strengthened and that is the librarian. The librarian ought to be the person to do this. And I think you know you're eight or nine years old, you oughta learn the basics of at least the fact that there is no authority in the text, whether you ask somebody else or you find out for yourself, you have the responsibility for judging that. I think they need to learn that, if not learn all the complexities of how to do that pretty young. I've made a syllabus out of the book that I made available for college instructors anywhere. I've also made a version of it that I'm inviting high school teachers to modify. There's a lot of fear out there. There are laws that prevent some counties and I think even some states for enabling access to the Internet without very strong filters on them, in many states. This is somewhat tangential, but there's been a lot of moral panic. Parents are afraid that their kids are going to meet predators online. And there's a study done by Sonja Livingston, London School of Economics of a million children in the UK of which -- I can't tell you how many thousands of them were molested but less than a dozen were from people they met online. The rest were from relatives or neighbors or people who are well known. So if you're concerned about that, the Internet's not the place to look for it. The biggest danger is letting your kids online without knowing how to determine the good information from the bad information. So I think the message ought to be you ought to sit down with your kids and at least explain to them that things are changing very rapidly. It's not been the way they've been for thousands of years and you're going to have to learn some new skills. Even if you as a parent may not have those skills, I think it's important to tell them that. I would love to see this -- some elements of this in the grade school. And I've collected lots of instances, and I've written a blog post for dmlcentral.net about teachers and librarians who have third graders blogging. So, of course, you've got to moderate the comments, but a third grader who writes a little paper, you know, a few sentences and gets a gold star, what's the difference between that and having someone in Sweden make intelligent comment about what you've written. Your sense of agency, I think, is more compatible with the way the world is going to be when you grow up than it is teaching in the old way. So I made a decision myself that I don't know how to change the education system. I'm very interested in making the tools and methods available for teachers who want to try. >>: So do you see this as basically a disruptive technology that we need to adapt to? I know Heidegger in the 20s talked about deseverance from the telephone. Seems like we pretend they're nearby, but they're actually very far away. So is there an aspect that this is an alienating thing, that we are reacting to as older folks that maybe young people would just take naturally, or is this parallel with previous history as well? >> Howard Rheingold: That's a deep question. Let's take the young people part first. I really started thinking about this stuff when I faced a college classroom. And I had thought that the students were going to be like my daughter, who is college aged at that time or be digital natives that you hear so much about. In fact, places like Stanford and Berkeley, heart of Silicon Valley, you would not -- I was surprised to see the blank looks when I said, okay, you're going to start blogging and start editing the wiki. Certainly in every class I teach there are students who know more than I do. And I seek them out and try to learn from them. But I no longer make the assumption that people know the basics. Yes, they can text with one hand behind their back. Yes, they Facebook compulsively. That is not mean that they know how to use a blog to advocate. They have no idea what RSS is. They don't know that Wikipedia can be edited with one click. They don't know how to use a wiki themselves. So I think that these are -- you know, we don't stop with teaching kids how to read and write. Why send them any further than the eighth grade? They still need to learn how to construct an argument, how to write a well-sourced paper. There's a whole rhetoric that people go to high school for, much less college. So I think that we've got a literacy that's no less sophisticated. But you're asking the deeper question. I think we are humans because we grasp the world. Heidegger said that and part of that is that we view the world as he called it a standing reserve. It's just ready for us to make it into something. And of course there are downsides to that and we are seeing the downsides to that. We're threatening our own existence by our unawareness of what making things by the billions can do. I don't know the answer to it. But I think, again, like the book, that becoming aware of the issue is really important. And becoming aware of the fact that people invent particular technologies, not just every tool, but communication tools, alphabets, telephones, Internets, they change the way we think and they change the way our societies work. We are a self-reprogramming organism. That's what changes us from all of the other primates. We learn by imitation. No other primate will look at where I'm pointing and figure out what I want them to know. Baby humans look at where their mothers are paying attention very soon. So we are constantly learning from each other and we're constantly learning through the symbolic technologies that we create to communicate with each other. At least we ought to know that we are changing our brains and that we have some choice about it. And there's only -- we're only beginning to understand scientifically how that works. >>: Thank you so much. >> Howard Rheingold: You're welcome. [applause].